Tracing change : an isotopic investigation of Anglo-Saxon childhood diet
Stable isotopes of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen are used to assess diet and mobility in early medieval childhood. Multiple samples were taken from individuals buried in Newcastle upon Tyne and North Lincolnshire between the 8th and 12th centuries A. D. Duration and intensity of breastfeeding varied within these populations, as evidenced by elevated 615 N and 6180 values in deciduous 2nd molars and, to a lesser extent, permanent 1st molar crowns. Weaning occurred during the formation of deciduous 2nd molar roots, and varied from a rapid reduction in breast feeding over a few months at 9 months to 1 year of age, to an extended period of partial breastfeeding during the 2nd year of life. Overall, individuals' diet in childhood appears to have had a similar isotopic signal to their diet later in life. This picture is complicated by a uniform depletion in 615 N in the permanent 2nd molar, formed between approximately 3 and 6 years of age. As this depletion has been observed in other populations (e. g. Fuller, et al., 2003; Eriksson, 2004) there is likely to be a physiological aetiology, caused by growth. Analysis of oxygen in permanent molars indicates geographically diverse origins in the populations under study. While some individuals have oxygen values consistent with residence in the area where they were buried, others may have come from the western coast of Britain, Ireland and central or northern Europe. A number of individuals changed their area of residence one or more times over the course of their childhood implying that they and possibly their communities were not sedentary in nature.